Should the Canucks trade for Pavel Zacha or stay away?

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 31: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center on December 31, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Oilers 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 31: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Edmonton Oilers at Prudential Center on December 31, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Oilers 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Rumours are continuing to swirl around the Vancouver Canucks.

During Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek said that the Canucks are reportedly interested in New Jersey Devils centre Pavel Zacha.

Here is what Marek said:

"“There’s been a lot of talk since (Canucks President of Hockey Operations.) Jim Rutherford took over about who’s going to be traded as Rutherford looks to massage this team into the mould that he wants, but very little talk about who might be coming in,” said Marek. “One player we believe the Vancouver Canucks have interest in or are at least are curious about is Pavel Zacha of the New Jersey Devils. Zacha is on an expiring contract. He’s a pending RFA, but he’s one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, so he could take his qualifying offer and then walk after a year. He’s represented by Darren Ferris of Quartexx, perhaps that camp wants to go that route. So Tom Fitzgerald, general manager of the New Jersey Devils, has a decision to make down the middle. They have Jack Hughes, they have Nico Hischier, they have Dawson Mercer. Where does Zacha fit in? We do know the teams are calling. Where this goes we’re not sure, but a player of interest for Vancouver.”"

Marek’s 32 Thoughts Podcast partner and Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman spoke about Zacha on Monday’s edition of Donnie and Dhali: The Team on CHEK TV. He said the Washington Capitals could potentially also be interested in Zacha.

Zacha scored 12 goals and has got 11 assists for 23 points in 46 games on a Devils team that is seventh in the Metropolitan Division. He is on pace for 20 goals, and 18 assists for 38 points which would be career-high numbers. In 362 career games, Zacha has scored 66 goals and managed 100 assists.

The 24-year-old was drafted sixth overall by the Devils in 2015. He is a centre but has also played the left wing with New Jersey. Zacha has spent a big chunk of this season as Nico Hischier’s left winger.

As Marek mentioned, Zacha is a pending RFA. He carries a 2.25 million dollar cap hit and is eligible for arbitration this summer.

How could Zacha fit in with the Canucks and what could go to the Devils

Zacha hasn’t really lived up to his sixth overall potential but it looks like he is slowly getting better each season.

He isn’t much of a playmaker but he does have a nice shot and is good on the power play

The native of Brno, Czech Republic stands at 6’3″ and 210 pounds. He uses his size and strength to win puck battles and is often seen close to the net looking for rebounds.

Zacha’s advanced stats look decent. He has a Corsi For Percentage of 53.49% at five-on-five and that is sixth on the Devils according to NaturalStatTrick. Zacha also has an expected goals percentage of 52.73%, which is seventh on the Devils and is sixth on the Devils in shots per 60 with 33.87.

At 24-years-old, Zacha fits Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin’s radar for young players to acquire.

What could go to New Jersey in exchange for Zacha? The Devils were reportedly interested in Conor Garland a few weeks ago but there is no way the Canucks should trade Garland for Zacha straight up. If Garland was going to go for Zacha, the Canucks would have to acquire at least one draft pick, a prospect or two and probably a young defenceman like Ty Smith for instance. I wrote a few weeks ago that the Canucks shouldn’t trade Garland unless the offer is really good.

One ideal player to trade for Zacha would be Jason Dickinson. He was brought in to be the Canucks third-line centre last summer but hasn’t been a fit. Unlike Dickinson, Zacha can provide offence. Dickinson has struggled on the penalty kill this season and Zacha has good experience on the penalty kill. The Devils rank eighth on the penalty kill at 83.3%.

However, Zacha’s two-way game hasn’t been that great over the years and his defensive game needs some work.

There is also his next contract. Shayna Goldman and Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic project Zacha’s market value is at 2.7 million. He also has a qualifying offer of three million. There is the chance he could just sign a one-year contract if negotiations go into arbitration.

My verdict

While Zacha is a decent scorer, his defensive play makes me skeptical. The Canucks need a third-line centre who is good defensively and I don’t think Zacha is the guy. Plus, it seems he is much better on the wing than he is at centre. The Canucks can get him at the right price and there is a chance for him to truly breakout but there is some risk especially with his next contract.

Let me know in the comments below, Facebook comments or on Twitter if you think the Canucks should acquire Zacha or stay away from him.

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